In Badaun, also spelt as Budaun and Badayun, ignoring the model code of conduct two supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) respectively, have legally registered a bet on stamp paper. They are pledging to pay Rs. two lakh in cash to the other, if the candidate they are backing goes down in the election for which voting takes place on May 7.

Here, SP President Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin, his uncle Shivpal’s son Aditya Yadav is making his electoral debut against BJP’s Durvijay Singh Shakya. Shakya, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) foot soldier associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), is also entering the electoral battle for the first time.

Badaun is one of the 10 seats going to polls in the third phase in Uttar Pradesh on May 7. Except for 2019, the SP has won this seat a record six times since 1996 giving the gambler backing SP the confidence to put his Rs 2 lakh at stake for a political novice.

The third phase which covers most of what is described as the Yadav belt has two more members of the Yadav first family in the electoral fray. They are incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) Dimple Yadav from Mainpuri where she has managed to inherit SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bastion after his death in 2022 by winning the by poll in December 2022.

The other member of the family is Akshay Yadav, son of Ramgopal Yadav who is contesting from Firozabad. During the Modi wave of 2014 Akshay managed to win the Firozabad seat by a margin of 1.14 lakh votes.

But he lost to the saffron party in 2019 due to the division of the SP votes as some sided with Akhilesh’s party and some with uncle Shivpal’s political outfit Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohiya. Shivpal merging his party with SP after Mulayam’s death is a relief for Akshay.

However, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielding an influential Muslim candidate Chaudhary Bashir makes the battle triangular. The BJP’s decision to drop sitting MP Chandrasen Jadon in favour of Vishwadeep Singh who had earlier contested and lost the 2014 election on a BSP ticket is now a BJP candidate.

This decision to field a Thakur is a belated course correction to placate the community. But it has also led to infighting within the BJP as the sitting MP’s supporters are angry.

Except Sambahal and Mainpuri, all the seats in this phase, Hathras (reserved) Agra (reserved) Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad, Etah, Aonla, Badaun and Bareilly had been won by the BJP in 2019. This time it is not an easy task for the BJP to retain these seats.

There is clearly no wave resulting in the local issues overshadowing the campaign. This is making the sitting BJP MPs face the heat.

In the arid zone of Agra, Hathras and Etah the lack of drinking water has emerged as a huge issue for these sitting MPs. In rural Agra locals complain that despite the BJP government in the centre, all five Assembly segments as well as the local bodies the much touted Jal Jeevan Mission promising “‘har ghar jal’ (water for every household)” remains a pipe dream for them.

They complain that they were getting piped water every third day. They also cite that they still have no proper airport, better roads, bench of the High Court and the barrage – promises made to them by the BJP government.

Agra MP and union minister of state for health and family welfare S. P. Singh Baghel is also facing the wrath of the Rajputs in his constituency who charge him of being anti Rajput. They give numerous examples where Baghel went out of his way to punish Rajput officials and common people.

As a result the Rajputs are actively campaigning against the saffron party candidate. Taking advantage of this disenchantment BSP candidate Puja Amrohi is trying to win them over by holding meetings in Rajput dominated villages. The Jats of the Agra are also against Baghel for not coming out in their support during the Farmers agitation.

The BJP has repeated three more candidates in this phase. They are former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s son Rajveer Singh in Etah, two-time Aonla MP Dharmendra Kashyap and Raj Kumar Chahar from Fatehpur Sikri. In all these three constituencies the local dynamics has changed with the Thakurs actively boycotting elections.

For instance in Fatehpur Sikri constituency, the sitting MP Chahar had won in 2019 by a huge margin of 4.95 lakh votes. It has five BJP MLAs who won in 2022. But this time the voters are angry with the sitting MP for not being accessible to them and not bringing any development to the area.

The Rajput voters are defiantly maintaining that they would support and campaign for the Rajput I.N.D.I.A. alliance Congress candidate and former war veteran Ramnath Singh Sikawar.

BJP dropping eight-time Bareilly MP, former union minister Santosh Gangwar, has caused a revolt among his loyal supporters. “‘Abki baar, chunav bahishkar’ (This time boycott of elections)” slogan has appeared on social media.

The infighting within the BJP has made the fight for present BJP candidate Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar really complicated. On April 8 the supporters of the Santosh Gangwar had raised anti BJP slogans and made BJP state president Bhupendra Chaudhary hostage at Santosh Gangwar’s office.

The BJP president had rushed to Bareilly to sort out the infighting between the supporters of the two Gangwars. He was ‘rescued’ by Santosh Gangwar after much persuasion.

Besides the infighting within the saffron party, the decision of the Rajputs and sizable Punjabi voters to boycott the election due to a local dispute is also likely to cost votes to the BJP candidate.

In Sambhal sitting SP MLA from Kundarki assembly constituency, Zia ur Rahman Barq, grandson of the deceased 93-year-old sitting SP MP, Shafiqur Rahman Barq is in the fray. In Sambhal four of the five assembly segments were won by the SP in 2022.

Unresolved issues like the cow and bull menace and the central government’s failure to come out with pro-farmer minimum support price are poll issues here.

In Hathras (reserved) a minister of state in chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s government, Anoop Balmiki is contesting against SP’s Jasveer Balmiki and BSP’s Hem Babu Dhangar. All three are outsiders.

The sitting MP BJP’s Rajvir Singh Diller died of heart attack on April 24 2024, reportedly after he had been denied the BJP ticket.

The stage is now set for an interesting three-cornered contest in most of these 10 seats where BJP has much at stake as well as the reputation of three members of the Yadav first family.